Tomorrow, in the Pacific Coast Classic, the Michigan men’s gymnastics team will find out where it truly stands among the country’s elite squads.
The meet, held in Oakland, Calif., will feature five of the nation’s top six teams – No. 1 Stanford, No. 3 Oklahoma, No. 4 California and No. 5 Illinois. And with the competition tougher than ever, the sixth-ranked Wolverines are looking to make a statement.
“We have an advantage, this year going in under the radar,” junior Scott Bregman said. “We’ve been slowly increasing our difficulty, playing around with the lineups, so we’re not the ones that everyone is chasing.”
More than any calculated rankings, the Classic will show which team is the best at this point in the season. Scores across the country can fluctuate widely, with each team evaluated by a different team of judges. Tomorrow, every one of the country’s top teams but Penn State will be under the same scrutinizing eyes.
The Classic hasn’t been kind to the Wolverines recently.
Last year, they entered the meet with a No. 1 ranking and an undefeated record. But after a wretched start on pommel horse, the team never recovered, finishing fourth.
A year earlier, ending the night on the troublesome horse, Michigan recorded another disappointing fourth-place finish.
This season, the gymnasts hope for better results.
They’ll start the night on parallel bars, and move through an event order they’re quite familiar with. The team started three meets on that event last year, along with this year’s Windy City Invitational. They will start the Big Ten Championships there, too. And Michigan will finish the night on vault, an apparatus known for yielding high scores.
“Anytime you don’t have to start on horse, it’s a good thing,” Bregman said.
Most of the Wolverines have also had two weeks off leading up to tomorrow – time they’ve used to practice and polish their routines.
While the Wolverines perfected their skills without the pressure of competition, their opponents had full slates last weekend.
Oklahoma beat No. 11 Iowa by nearly 20 points. Surging Stanford put up an astronomical score at home, even while giving its two senior national team members, seniors David Sender and Sho Nakamori, a night off. In Columbus, California recorded a revenge win over Ohio State, and Illinois lost its meet in the final rotation to No. 2 Penn State.
“I don’t know how important it is for us to beat them, because we beat all those teams last season and it didn’t amount to a national title,” Bregman said. “But it certainly would be a great confidence booster.”
The main problem for Michigan this year has been consistent hits on every event – the team is equal to any other in terms of sheer talent. The Wolverines will need four more-than-solid hits on each event, something that hasn’t yet happened this year, in order to keep up with their high-quality competition for the win at the finish.